ACORD at the 56th CSW in New York

ACORD Team: Didacienne, Juliet Nakato, Ousainou Ngum,
Annette Msabeni, Salina Sanou.

The 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, from 27th February to 9th March 2012. The CSW is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), from which ACORD holds consultative status.

An ACORD team is at the CSW to contribute, learn and inspire and we hope to share some of the CSW atmosphere through our blog.

Friday, 2nd March

"Strengthening livelihoods and foods security for SGBV survivors as a way of reparation"

This was a very busy day where focus group discussions, debates and thematic presentations were held led by ACORD. A discussion panel was formed comprising of Salina Sanou, Dinah Musindarwezo of FEMNET, Didacienne Mukahabeshimana of ACORD in Rwanda and Juliet Nakato of ACORD in Uganda. The session was moderated by Annette Msabeni-Ngoye from the Secretariat.

Participants keenly following the discussions led by ACORD's team. Photo/Mary Nzioki

Many of those speaking at the forum underlined the importance of helping the survivors to rebuild and transform their lives by putting them in the driving seat for change. The psychosocial needs of survivors were also a major concern for participants.

"Survivors of sexual violence should be accompanied in their struggle to recover through relevant initiatives that adequately respond to their livelihood rehabilitation", this was emphasised by Salina Sanou during her presentation. She demonstrated the need to involve vulnerable groups in recovery activities through training and provision of tools including farming inputs, seeds, fertilisers, funds and creating awareness.

"Governments must develop closer ties with rural women survivors of sexual violence and pay attention to their needs. We must also pay attention to redistributive policies and aid packages in order to address women's rehabilitation needs, including psycho-social support and healing processes, access to land and productive resources and agricultural development as a means of livelihood" - Juliet Nakato

"Food and livelihood insecurity can only be effectively addressed if sexual violence is considered and addressed. Livelihoods interventions should address the underlying causes and consequences of gender based violence and poverty." - Dinah Musindarwezo (FEMNET)

"While representing the interests of rural women at national and international levels, the importance of the ACORD methodology is in supporting rural women to drive the processes through strategic litigation in order to ensure their voices are heard and that their issues are addressed with sufficient evidence base rooted from the grassroots. This is critical so as to ensure that rural and vulnerable women survivors of sexual violence can hold governments to account, and contribute to their empowerment and development" - Ousainou Ngum

Tuesday, 28th February

Women's empowerment in agricultural production was a key theme at the CSW today. The UN Women's Executive Director Michelle Bachelet led the United Nations agencies - central of which were FAO and UNDP - in declaring its strategies for accelerating women's empowerment- especially the rural and small scale farmer woman - in agricultural production as a means to achieving gender equality by 2015.

Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Director
(photo: UNWomen)

Building on a wealth of its work across third world countries, key investment strategies the United Nations will now employ to speed up gender equality in agriculture include partnership building for gender focused law and policy formulation and implementation at national level; and facilitating women's access and ownership to agricultural assets including credit, land, agricultural machinery and others.

Central will also be instituting women centered financial institutions - such as cooperatives - and enabling membership of women and their organization's. The success of women's ability to optimise opportunities is dependant on their capacity to increase production, market their products and optimal sale - making women's capacity development central to successful interventions. Women's participation in governance processes at community to national level and ensuring their consultation in development planning and investment is critical. As the rural woman is the primary household and ultimately community food security provider, they must be consulted in infrastructural planning e.g. where roads, factories, financial institutions and others should be established.

Adding to the agricultural action oriented mood at the CSW56 this Tuesday, Feed the Future - The United States Government's Global Hunger & Food Security Initiative and partners (USAID, International Food Policy Research Institute [IFPRI] and The Oxford Poverty and Human Development initiative [OPHI]) launched the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI).

Mary Nzioki listening and taking notes
Photo by Ousainou Ngum

The interesting and dynamic tool is designed to track positive and negative developments in women's development levels. Based on a three county pilot research in Bangladesh, Guatemala and Uganda, focusing on U.S. funded initiatives, the Index looks at the five areas of Production, Resources, Income, Leadership and Time. The quantitative assessment is centered on ten indictors comprising input in production decisions; autonomy in production; ownership of assets; purchase, sale, or transfer of assets; access to and decisions on credit; control over use of income; group membership; public speaking; workload and leisure.

ACORD's agricultural based programming and advocacy can well adapt aspects of the well defined and process oriented monitoring tool for effective data collection, programming and ultimately results based advocacy.

Of mention, is the new and increasing used buzz term by UN agencies and civil society organizations at the CSW - women's "social reproduction"! This is used to mean the sum total of a woman's empowerment and self articulation influenced by factors including food and nutrition, education, housing, health, career opportunities, employment, recreation, leisure, fulfilling relationships and the right to individual choices.

Mary Nzioki

Monday, 27th February

ACORD team attended the opening of the 56th CSW (Commission on Status of Women). The CSW brings together women, policy makers, governments, NGOs/CSOs to take stock, applaud the progress made and more importantly rally around key priority issues and renew commitment to move forward efforts to bring real change to the lives of women and girla globally.

This year the focus is "empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges". We all need to and must work with and through grassroots women for the real and meaningful change to be realized!

Annette Msabeni-Ngoye

Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, Nigerian Widows
Development organisation.

The financial and economic empowerment gives the women the confidence and authority to take on challenges at household and community level, as illustrated by Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi, President of the Nigerian Widows Development Organisation, in a saying in her native language Nigerian Ibo; "Aku na esi obi ike" meaning "Wealth strengthens the heart".

Emphasizing the need to strengthen rural widows financial capacity, she likened a poor woman's knock on a door as feeble and faint while that of a financially able one as firm, loud and confidently repeated. Dr. Nwadinobi presented at the Rural Women and Widows in Africa: Roads to Empowerment side event.

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